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Are We Practicing Entitlement Agriculture?

October 31, 2012

As someone who sells to a specific, direct market, I think outside the box on a regular basis. I have to. I can’t deal in volume like McDonald’s or Tyson’s or Smithfield’s – and that volume feeds a market (literally!). However, the marketing they do doesn’t fit me or our operation. So the last couple of years while growing into viability I’ve read. A lot.

Now having grown up in the agriculture world, many skills are second nature. I’ve been tattooing and tagging animals from the time I was about 11. I learned to shear sheep and raise rabbits and milk cows and goats. I learned to make soap from the milk, and sold that. But life holds changes and that meant the humbling lesson of starting over. So it was with the lessons of what not to do I’ve approached how to do better, and having watched the agriculture climate of the last few years, a book I saw advertised this summer caught my eye. One of the few books I’ve pre-ordered, it’s by Dan Kennedy and Matt Zagula and is called the “No B.S. The Ultimate Guide to Creating Trust in an Understandably Un-Trusting World.”

Isn’t that the epitome of agriculture now? Trust? We hear it often if we listen. Folks don’t TRUST GMO. They don’t TRUST chemicals. They don’t TRUST “big ag” even if it’s hard to say what “big ag” is. They don’t TRUST corporations.
We’re surrounded by a minimum of trust. People trust with their lives the people coming towards them in the other lane on the highway. They may not *like* trusting but to get where they need to be, they do. Equally, they may not trust the food industry, yet eat because we all have to.
So in reading this morning a sentence stuck out – “You want to be superior but you do not want to rely on that fact in marketing yourself, nor permit yourself any sense of entitlement because of it.” Hasn’t agriculture been doing that?
How many times do we read comment sections and see someone challenging “what are you going to do stop eating?” Couldn’t that be perceived as “you owe us and we’ll do what we want?” So if someone else listens and offers something different, agriculture competitors are quick to point out they aren’t doing anything special. And they aren’t – they’re just filling choices like the rest of us do. Isn’t it, in many cases, a sense of entitlement to say “look how hard we work and how many hours we put in to feed you”. You owe me. You wouldn’t have food if not for me. Really?

So imagine this – you want to go to dinner, and you go to town to your favorite restaurant. It still looks the same, but the menu is different. Imagine going to KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, Hardees and Braums and finding the same menu. All of them have the same menu, but look as they always have on the outside.
What about food choices?! Those can’t exist! You must eat like I say! You can’t have choices except from the menu. You notice the car dealers all have the same kind of vehicles. That’s what sells the most so therefore all want that!
Why is it with cars and restaurants we embrace individual but the most basic of things, our food, we want everything the same? And for those who pound the desk saying again the same mantra that doesn’t work and hasn’t worked before, if you’re criticizing other types of agriculture, it’s a back handed way of wanting it all the same.

So someone buys organic and you think it’s overpriced quackery. So what – it’s their choice! Someone else purchases regular brands at the store and that’s ok because that might contain your crop, but when someone criticizes your crop you get testy. Boom. You owe me.

The truth is, with choices, consumers don’t owe us anything. Not a sale, not next year, nothing. And until we build their trust, including not undermining fellow farmers, then how long term is our commitment, really?
We’re growing more then generations of crops and livestock. We’re reaching generations of consumers too. If we’re not for all of agriculture, isn’t that a type of entitlement also?
Choices mean for all. Food choices allow farm choices – and we don’t all want the same kind of farm.

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